REVIEW: McDonald’s Spicy Chicken McNuggets and Mighty Hot Sauce

McDonald s Spicy Chicken McNuggets Package 1

If there were a Netflix mini-series about Fast Food Fried Chicken, spicy nuggets deserve their own episode.

Obviously, spicy chicken is nothing new, but when it comes to fast food’s big players, Wendy’s was the first one out of the gate with spicy nuggets. But its on-again, off-again availability eventually opened up space for Burger King to come onto the scene in 2017. They also came with a healthy side of creative social media stunts, including giving away free nuggets to anyone named “Wendy.” Amazing!

McDonald’s has offered spicy chicken items along the way, from various sandwiches to its Spicy Chicken McBites in 2012. But these new McDonald’s Spicy Chicken McNuggets are, apparently, the first new nugget flavor (officially) since 1983. And that’s not all, folks. These are accompanied by the Mighty Hot Sauce, the first new dipping sauce since 2017 (2018’s Szechuan sauce was a return, remember?)

My first impression? The packaging is lame. But it’s what’s on the inside that counts, so who cares?

McDonald s Spicy Chicken McNuggets Orange 2

My second impression? These nuggets are gorgeous! They had more of an orangey hue (am I imagining that?) than the standard Chicken McNuggets, and the tempura coating looked extra flakey. The Mighty Hot Sauce had the crimson tincture of torturous flames and visible chili flakes. Ohboyohboyohboy!

I tried the Spicy McNuggets without the sauce first. The texture was familiar and on point, super flakey and with that sort of airy fluffiness McNuggets are known for. I’m sure that texture isn’t everyone’s preference, but these deliver if you like McNuggets.

McDonald s Spicy Chicken McNuggets Bite 3

The spice level started out mild and grew naturally, like heat from a real spice source. Mine seemed to have a “dry heat,” which you’d expect on chicken. There doesn’t appear to be any seasoning within the nugget; it’s all on the coating.

My only small complaint is that the spice level seems to vary drastically from nugget to nugget. I was concerned when the first McNugget didn’t deliver much heat, but it grew with the second. But it doesn’t get hot enough for me when eating the Spicy McNuggets without the sauce.

McDonald s Spicy Chicken McNuggets Sauced 4

But then, from a humble little black plastic cup, comes the Mighty Hot Sauce, karate-kicking the doors RIGHT off this mother with HEAT.

This sauce is fire. It coats the Spicy McNugget perfectly. In the laziest of descriptions, it’s like the sweet and sour sauce with heat. But it’s better than that. It has pepper flavor, a vinegar kick that hits you right away, a sweet *thwak* from, what is that on the label, Apricot? And then a long slow burn that leaves your tongue and lips tingling for a while after you’re done eating.

Pretty soon, I couldn’t tell whether the heat of each new bite was building from the McNuggets, or if the Mighty Hot Sauce was just blazing away. I found myself wishing I’d asked for honey or maybe ranch to balance it out. When I get these again (yep, “when”), I’ll definitely order fries and try dipping them in this spicy sauce.

Overall, I think this entry into the spicy nugget competitive landscape was well done by Mc’y D’s. It stayed true to its style of McNuggets while offering something new with a spice level you can build upon to your liking. If you want to take it to a 10, load on that Hot Mighty Sauce.

I’m glad McDonald’s didn’t try to overhaul its signature McNuggets too much, and that it launched a hot sauce that is genuinely hot. I will definitely be a repeat customer.

P.S. For what it’s worth, 50% of my McNuggets were boot shapes! Is there some kind of McNugget horoscope reading for when that happens?

Purchased Price: $2.00
Size: 6 Spicy McNuggets + 1 Mighty Hot Sauce
Rating: 9 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (6 McNuggets) 250 Calories, 16 grams of fat, 3 grams of saturated fat, 45 milligrams of cholesterol, 540 milligrams of sodium, 12 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of sugar, 0 grams of fiber, and 14 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Wendy’s Baconator Pringles

Wendy s Baconator Pringles

Like many of you, I imagine, going to the grocery store is one of my absolute favorite things to do. When I turned 30, I got a birthday card that said on the inside, “You have a favorite grocery store now” as though I hadn’t had one since my 20th birthday? Ha!

Anyway, there I was this past Tuesday, strolling along the aisles of the Skokie Jewel-Osco (an Albertson’s chain, for anyone eager to find these crisps) when I spotted an endcap display wall of glowing Wendy’s signs. Okay, they weren’t glowing, but the bright illuminated red Wendy’s sign graphic on the black tube of Pringles made it LOOK like they were glowing. This store had the new Limited Time Only Wendy’s Baconator Pringles.

Pringles has pulled off some pretty complex flavor combinations before, and I was eager to try these out. The image on the front is the classic, original Baconator with two quarter-pound patties, six strips of bacon, cheese, ketchup, and mayo on a bun.

Wendy s Baconator Pringles 2

Wendy appears on the pop-top lid and there’s a code printed on the underside of the lid for an offer for a free Baconator, Son of Baconator, or Breakfast Baconator with a purchase when you order using the Wendy’s app.

Wendy s Baconator Pringles 3

I was ready for this tube (can? cylinder?) of Pringles to have an overwhelming bacon smell, but it actually was balanced from start to finish, and the crisps were visibly seasoned with a light orange powder (I always prefer it when I can see the seasoning, don’t you?).

There are an awful lot of artificial bacon flavored and scented items out there, and some of them are offensive – this isn’t one of those items. These crisps have tangy sauce flavor, onion, and a great balance of bacon and charred burger.

Compared to the Baconator itself, the crisps could have used a little more bacon flavor, but I appreciate that they didn’t just make a bacon-flavored chip. These crisps taste like meat.

Wendy s Baconator Pringles 4

The aftertaste is slightly sweet, almost like Cheerios. Maybe they were going for bun flavor? But if you don’t like the aftertaste, just shove more meat crisps into your gob, you goof.

Overall these are a surprisingly balanced crisp that do taste like all the elements of a Baconator. Maybe Pringles will bang out a fried egg-flavored crisp next and we’ll have an excuse to eat Breakfast Baconator Pringles in the morning.

I’d try it.

I sincerely hope you’re able to locate these Baconator Pringles. If you’re in the Venn Diagram of people who love Wendy’s and people who love Pringles, these are a little slice of heaven just for you.

Purchased Price: $1.99
Size: 5.5oz can
Purchased at: Jewel-Osco
Rating: 9 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (15 crisps/28 g) 150 calories, 9 grams of fat, 2.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 220 milligrams of sodium, 16 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of fiber, less than 1 gram of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.

REVIEW: Smucker’s Uncrustables Taco Bites and BBQ Chicken Bites

Smucker s Uncrustables Taco Bites and BBQ Chicken Bites

What are Smucker’s Uncrustables Taco Bites and BBQ Chicken Bites?

Smucker’s Uncrustables is stepping outside of its proven sweet-based lineup and into the savory space with two heat-and-eat “meat in bread” items — BBQ Chicken Bites and Taco Bites. Uncrustables has done grilled cheese before, but now we’re talking full-on USDA approved animal products, ya’ll.

How are they?

First, let’s assume these are targeted toward and made for kids. They have a different palate than (most) adults, so I set my expectations at “they should be as good as any other kid-food option.”

Smucker s Uncrustables Taco Bites 2

I started with the Taco Bites, hoping for that standard taco seasoning flavor and some cheesy goodness since the front of the package said these included cheese. I used the printed microwave heating directions since there weren’t any for a toaster oven.

Smucker s Uncrustables Taco Bites 3

Biting into these was like biting into a black hole. I know my jaw closed, but around what? The bread on the outside was a dry whole wheat bun. There was an aftertaste of taco seasoning like it was a distant childhood memory, but that was about it. The filling-to-bread ratio was way off, with every bite being mostly dry bread followed by a little bit of the beef crumble.

Smucker s Uncrustables Taco Bites 4

For the second bite in the pouch, I tore off the top layer of bread and folded the rest in half to try to simulate doubling the meat filling. This was much better and led to my discovering that the seasoning on the beef itself is pretty good when it’s not battling the flavor sucking sponge of the whole wheat bun prison it’s delivered in. I predict many a kid will eat the yummy filling and leave the bread exoskeleton behind.

Smucker s Uncrustables BBQ Chicken Bites 5

With my expectations significantly lowered, I moved on to the BBQ Chicken Bites. The same microwave directions had my food ready in 40 seconds.

Smucker s Uncrustables BBQ Chicken Bites 6

The bread used in the BBQ Chicken version was SO MUCH BETTER. It was moist (yeah, I said it) almost like a wheat brioche and was an immediate improvement. The filling was too sweet for my BBQ preferences, but, again, assuming this is for kids, I can see why it leaned into sweet BBQ instead of smoky or savory. The poultry pieces were surprisingly large and looked like legit whole shredded chicken breast meat. There was also a definitive sauciness to the inside that was lacking in the taco version.

Is there anything else you need to know?

I mean, they certainly don’t have a crust. Moniker appeased.

Also, I can see where the crazed parent, desperate to get food into their screaming hungry kid’s mouth, would appreciate something that’s pretty impressively balanced in nutrition and ready in 40 seconds.

Conclusion:

I’m always a fan when a brand innovates outside of its proven space. I think these bites, overall, were designed for kids with care and consideration (I mean, only 170 milligrams of sodium in two BBQ Chicken Bites means someone was paying attention when these were developed).

That being said, the Taco Bites have a lot of room for improvement (please switch the bread. PLEASE!) before I’d buy them again. The Chicken BBQ Bites were pretty delicious even for “kid food,” and I’ll be happy to munch on them as afternoon snacks (there’s not enough food to be an adult meal, that’s for sure) until they’re gone.

Purchased Price: $3.99 each
Size: 6 oz. box/3 pouches
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 4 out of 10 (Taco Bites), 7 out of 10 (BBQ Chicken Bites)
Nutrition Facts: (1 twin pack pouch) Taco Bites – 160 Calories, 5 grams of fat, 3 grams of saturated fat, 20 milligrams of cholesterol, 310 milligrams of sodium, 16 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 3 grams of sugar, and 6 grams of protein. BBQ Chicken Bites – 130 Calories, 3.5 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 20 milligrams of cholesterol, 170 milligrams of sodium, 18 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of fiber, 5 grams of sugar, and 8 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Fairlife Light Ice Cream

Fairlife Light Ice Cream

When you were younger, did you ever think ahead to being an adult and being able to “do whatever you want”?

I used to think along those lines, but even my adolescent hopefulness couldn’t have predicted the pure joy in buying every single flavor of a new ice cream release because I was “supposed to” for a product review. That was my reality when I found the new seven-flavor lineup of Fairlife Light Ice Cream.

You’re probably familiar with Fairlife from its presence in the fluid dairy aisle. Its most significant point of difference is the use of and direct-to-consumer sale of ultra-filtered (UF) milk, which is, in my opinion, as a dairy scientist, VERY NEAT.

Ultra-filtered milk is simply milk that has been passed through a membrane that separates out some of the water, lactose, and small minerals. What’s left is milk that is higher in protein and has much less lactose. Fairlife also does other super nifty things like adding lactase enzymes to its chocolate milk which breaks lactose into glucose and galactose, which together can be as sweet as sugar, so the chocolate milk needs less added sugar to be just as sweet! Science can be delicious! Okay, with all of that said, let’s bring it back to performance because it doesn’t matter how clever your ice cream is if it doesn’t deliver on taste.

Cookies & Cream

Fairlife Light Ice Cream Cookies  Cream

I chose to start with Cookies & Cream because I think it’s a crowd-pleasing favorite. The Fairlife version lived up to expectations. The cookies were chocolatey and soft, and the pieces weren’t skimpy. The vanilla had a nice flavor as well, but I did think the texture overall was a little icy and it could have been more creamy and melty. But considering these are light ice creams, I wasn’t shocked.

Rating: 7 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (1/3 of the container) 190 Calories, 11 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 40 milligrams of cholesterol, 95 milligrams of sodium, 22 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 13 grams of sugar, and 9 grams of protein.

Double Fudge Brownie

Fairlife Light Ice Cream Double Fudge Brownie

I’m always a little wary when “light” versions of products shoot for flavors like Double Fudge Brownie. In the case of Fairlife, I think this flavor is fine, but not amazing. The chocolate ice cream was decent. It’s like their chocolate milk, but frozen. The brownie pieces were surprisingly good. They were soft and pillowy, sort of like a Fiber One brownie.

The fudge sauce was not for me. It had a very harsh acidic canned chocolate syrup flavor that didn’t mesh well with the sweetness level in the ice cream. Keep the brownies, lose the fudge swirl.

Rating: 5 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: I’m SO sorry, but this pint was tossed from our freezer to make room for frozen goods before I could snag a picture of the nutrition label.

Chocolate and Vanilla

Fairlife Light Ice Cream Chocolate

Fairlife Light Ice Cream Vanilla

Honestly, the staple flavors were a little icy, but pretty good. The Vanilla had little flecks of vanilla bean and the Chocolate flavor was mild, but pleasant. With more fat, the chocolate would have been more luscious. I’d accept a scoop of either as my à la mode any day. Especially considering a serving of the vanilla is basically the nutritional equivalent of a glass of 2% milk with a little sugar. Keep your expectations level, folks.

Rating: 7 out of 10 (Vanilla)
Nutrition Facts: (1/3 of the container) 140 Calories, 6 grams of fat, 3.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 50 milligrams of cholesterol, 125 milligrams of sodium, 19 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, 12 grams of sugar, and 9 grams of protein.

Rating: 6 out of 10 (Chocolate)
Nutrition Facts: (1/3 of the container) 190 Calories, 6 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 45 milligrams of cholesterol, 85 milligrams of sodium, 20 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 12 grams of sugar, and 9 grams of protein.

Chocolate Peanut Butter

Fairlife Light Ice Cream Chocolate Peanut Butter

The Chocolate Peanut Butter flavor was my only huge letdown. There is no peanut butter in this product. There is only added peanut flavor. I get that these are light ice creams, so maybe you can’t add peanut butter, but in that case, maybe don’t make this flavor at all? The pieces of chocolate flakes were mildly redeeming, but overall this one was pretty rough.

Rating: 3 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (1/3 of the container) 190 Calories, 11 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 40 milligrams of cholesterol, 95 milligrams of sodium, 22 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 13 grams of sugar, and 9 grams of protein.

Java Chip

Fairlife Light Ice Cream Java Chip

It was GREAT. Again, this is clearly lower fat than other ice creams, but for some reason, I didn’t notice that as much in this coffee version. The chocolate flakes, much like in the peanut butter version, are nice. They break down and aren’t waxy. Slow melt, but I really liked the coffee flavor in this one.

Rating: 8 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: I’m SO sorry, but this pint was tossed from our freezer to make room for frozen goods before I could snag a picture of the nutrition label.

Mint Chip

Fairlife Light Ice Cream Mint Chip

Ahh, mint chip. You can’t go wrong with mint chip. Minty flavor makes everything seem refreshing. Would a full fat mint chip melt better and taste better? Yeah. But this ain’t bad. I would love a mint chip ice cream sandwich made with this.

Rating: 7 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (1/3 of the container) 170 calories, 8 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 45 milligrams of cholesterol, 115 milligrams of sodium, 22 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, 14 grams of sugar, and 9 grams of protein.

Overall:

Fairlife Light Ice Cream POWER BOWL

Overall, it’s no surprise these light ice creams made from ultra-filtered milk deliver a slightly inferior texture to full-fat regular ice cream, but that’s par for the course in the rapidly expanding world of light ice creams.

Set these bad boys on the counter for five minutes before you scoop and they do pretty well. I also still think UF milk and some of the techniques used at Fairlife are really interesting. I would buy Java Chip, Mint Chip, Vanilla, or Cookies & Cream again for SURE. But I don’t care much for the flavor trade-offs when you get to flavors like Chocolate Peanut Butter that doesn’t have any actual peanut butter.

Purchased Price: $3.99 each
Size: 14 fl. oz.
Purchased at: Jewel-Osco

REVIEW: Ruffles Lime & Jalapeno Potato Chips

Ruffles Lime  Jalapeno Potato Chips

What are Ruffles Lime & Jalapeno Potato Chips?

They’re lime and jalapeno-flavored Ruffles, of course, and the output of the first-ever “Chip Deal” between NBA All-Star Anthony Davis and Snack Food Company All-Star, Ruffles.

Why didn’t they name this a “partnerCHIP”? Talk about a missed opportunity.

Do I imagine, in my blind optimistic ignorance, Anthony Davis in a lab coat tasting chips and giving feedback like, “No, not enough lime. Season it more!”? Of course, I do. Doesn’t that sound amazing? Let’s assume that’s how these were made and pray that Ruffles will eventually release that B-roll footage as a media play.

How are they?

I have definitely taken down an entire bag of Tostitos Hint of Lime Tortilla Chips in my youth (also by Frito Lay), so I was hopeful the citrus flavor would hold up in this version.

Ruffles Lime  Jalapeno Potato Chips 2

The chips appear evenly seasoned with “Lime and Jalapeno seasoning” that includes visible green flecks, which I’m assuming are dehydrated jalapenos and spices. I was also impressed with how remarkably accurate the front of pack picture was. I had several chips inside my bag that looked identical in seasoning coverage.

The upfront flavor is exactly what lime-chip lovers would expect, bright, fresh, clean citrus flavor that makes your mouth water but also leaves you wanting another chip indefinitely forever. Mmmm…delicious addiction.

Ruffles Lime  Jalapeno Potato Chips 3

The jalapeno flavor tastes like peppers, not just heat, which is something not all “hot” chips get right. The lime flavor passes to the pepper flavor for the assist and leaves you with a lingering natural heat. Perfect.

Is there anything else you need to know?

This release came with three exclusive bag designs, and a sneaker called the Ruffles Ridge Tops. Ruffles has teased in several press releases that we can expect to see more from the A.D./Ruffles Chip Deal, and I have to say, they’re off to a solid start.

Conclusion:

These chips are a slam dunk. Yes, I heard your eyes roll just now. But, unless you hate lime-flavored things, these are worth a try. They’re nicely balanced and aren’t artificial tasting at all. Anthony Davis signed his name to a good one here.

Purchased Price: 2/$5 special
Size: 8.5 oz. bag

Purchased at:
Rating: 9 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (14 chips/28g) 150 Calories, 9 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 200 milligrams of sodium, 15 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 1 gram of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Reuben Pringles

Reuben Pringles

There are people out there who reject rye bread, cold-shoulder corned beef, swear against Swiss and sauerkraut, and “thank you next” Thousand Island dressing. But those people can’t deny that when these ingredients come together, the result is a delicious Reuben sandwich.

Given its flavor complexity, I was eager to see how it would be executed with the new Reuben Pringles.

First things first, this package stays true to the hilarious anthropomorphized Pringle format by featuring a lone crisp sitting at a deli counter with bib affixed and ready to snarf down a Reuben, which is larger than the Pringle itself. In case anyone was wondering, my second favorite anthropomorphized Pringle artwork is the Dill Pickle flavor.

Reuben Pringles 2

When you pop (the fun don’t stop) the top off this Pringles tube, the first thing you’ll smell is rye bread. It’s an overwhelmingly spot on caraway rye aroma. Glancing inside the container, the crisps appear lightly seasoned, but at closer inspection, they look that way because one of the two visible powders is white. Because the other powder was a maroon color, I was hoping this meant these would have a unique corned beef taste.

Reuben Pringles 3

The flavor is really interesting. First, I got an oniony kraut, then a savory nuttiness that I guess is a blend of corned beef and Swiss. Then it was THOUSAND ISLAND TIME as the dressing taste comes through STRONG. If Pringles could partner with McDonald’s to do a Big Mac variety, I think they’d nail it by combining this Thousand Island seasoning and its previous cheeseburger item. The lingering aftertaste is pure caraway rye, and then this flavor roller coaster is over.

Reuben Pringles 4

Overall, I was slightly let down by the sauerkraut and corned beef not being more distinct and thought the overall flavor could have been stronger. For this reason, I think being “Limited Edition” is appropriate for this crisp. I liked it once but probably wouldn’t add it to the standard rotation.

I definitely don’t think Pringles did anything wrong by the Reuben in making this crisp! In fact, the flavors they were able to pack in are pretty impressive. If you like Thousand Island, you’ll like this. The sauerkraut wasn’t completely distinct, but they didn’t miss the mark, so if more kraut varieties show up, I’ll be hunting them down.

Purchased Price: $3/5 (sale)
Size: 5.2 oz. can
Purchased at: Walgreens
Rating: 7 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (15 crisps/28 g) 150 calories, 9 grams of fat, 2.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 180 milligrams of sodium, 16 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of fiber, less than 1 gram of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.